Words are delicious! I love how they taste when they fall out of my mouth and into the atmosphere. I enjoy playing with my words as creatively as kids play with icky peas on their dinner plates, finding new shapes and ways of arranging them into tolerable and sometimes enjoyable bites.
The power of language in shaping action is often overlooked. Much of my time spent in this one-and-a-half-year-old position has been around (re)defining words with folk in their various settings. Indeed, my work has already helped reframe potential challenges and reorient folk in their respective ministries.
Here’s a recent example to consider. During the pilot session of the Exodus Experiment, a local church pastor was processing a problem within the congregation. She didn’t want to act alone in solving the issue, so she was exploring different options to bring the community together in deciding how to proceed.
As we were speaking, she brought up the church’s mission statement in passing. It was so beautifully and succinctly written with such impactful words and phrases, I couldn’t help but to ask her to return to the statement! Then, in relation to the problem she named, I invited her to consider (a variation of) these questions for herself and even with the congregation:
- What do these words mean to me/us?
- Whether inherited or freshly written, why these words? Why now?
- In what ways can we modify the words to reflect more authentically who we are, if at all?
- What do I/we need to be able to embody these words throughout our various ministries?
- How will we perceive our progress in this work of (re)aligning our stated values and actions?
These new questions around previously-agreed-upon words helped crack open new possibilities forward. In addition to encouraging conversations and input from all who care to share, the process also centers the essence and prioritizes the purposes of the congregation.
While the details in your community may differ, I encourage you to dust off the mission statement and/or other meaningful words that are important and engage these or other questions. Aim for specificity to extract the most value from this process. Document and track your progress (bonus points for external accountability partners). Rinse. Repeat as needed.
Wild blessings and fierce gratitude!
Rev. Phiwa Langeni
Ambassador for Innovation & Engagement
Center for Analytics, Research & Development, and Data (CARDD)
National Setting of the UCC
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